While I was driving Dad to our house on Friday, I noticed that I was having initial contractions. They continued through dinner and after the girls were put to bed, I walked around our block a couple of times to see if I could jolt them into the “real thing”. Although they were semi-regular, the movements really only qualified as “tightenings”, not breath-sucking contractions. So I still wasn’t sure if the baby was coming or not.

Although the mild contractions continued, by 10 pm I decided I was too tired to keep walking around and opted to go to bed instead. I carefully laid out an absorbent bed mat before laying down and tried to go to sleep. About 11, I thought my waters had broken, and I turned on the light in the ensuite. Instead, I was bleeding copiously. That was it. I woke David, who called the hospital to say we were coming in.

My Dad was still up when we left, so he knew he was on Grandpa duty until David got back. The trip to the hospital was uneventful — even relaxing — because I wasn’t enduring painful contractions! I hadn’t experienced bleeding like this in the previous pregnancies, so I was concerned about what was causing it, but Baby D kept moving around in my belly, which reassured me somewhat.

Arriving at the hospital, the bleeding still hadn’t stopped, and I was assessed by a doctor very quickly. An ultrasound showed no irregularities with the placenta (which had been the main concern), and the baby wasn’t in distress. However, because the cause of the bleeding was still unknown, it was advised that I should have the baby as quickly as possible.

My contractions didn’t progress until the doctor broke my waters at 1 am. From then on, they were sharp and quick — every three minutes. Ouch! I sucked on the nitrous oxide, but that doesn’t really numb the pain, it just makes you float a little bit. A shot of pethidine may or may not have helped.

I spent most of the labour bouncing on a big exercise ball. David was right behind me, massaging me when I needed it. He was a terrific support person, responsive even though he was very tired himself. I also vomited in labour, which the midwife said was fantastic: “It pushes the baby down!” (Yeah, right. Note to self: don’t eat salmon in the hours before going into labour.)

One hiccup with my birth plan was that I demanded wanted an epidural. However, procedure regulated that I needed to have a blood test first, and because my hospital is classed as a smaller regional hospital, they don’t have a pathologist working overnight. So the blood was sent to another hospital in the city. The results of the blood test took about two hours to show up on the computer, and by the time the anaesthetist was called and prepped, I was past the point of no return — the baby was coming. (Note to self: try birthing in the daytime.)

So just before 4 in the morning, after a short, excruciating labour of three hours, I pushed Baby D out. I was terrified to birth a baby without the epidural, but I didn’t have a choice, and the baby came out without me tearing.

Baby D was a bit slow to breathe and didn’t really wail much, but the midwives were happy with her appearance. She weighed about 4kg (my biggest baby to date), which is 8.8 lbs, and was 51 cm in length.

Delaney Renee, 26 December 2009
As a newborn, D was calm and content.

After the birth, David was in awe of my marvellous feat, which made me feel like I had just manifested super-powers, and already my memories of the pain are receding into the backdrop of my mind. (It must be because I’m breastfeeding again — that always drains the memory.)

(Summary: Epidurals are way under-rated. Natural childbirth is way over-rated.)

Lauren + Delaney, 26 December 2009
Whew! I was relieved THAT was over.

(Baby D was born on 26 December (a national holiday called Boxing Day in our part of the world), but it was still 25 December in many parts of the world, which makes it the same birthday as my special friend Marisa in Michigan!)

It was a specific blessing from God that of all the days to have a baby in the night, this was the best time to do so. I had been praying that the baby would come sooner, but God had better plans.

Although we didn’t know it even a couple days ago, God knew that we would soon have my dad as a houseguest — someone staying with us that we could trust, someone who could manage the girls’ breakfasts in the morning if we were absent, someone who was there when we needed it so we didn’t have to call up a friend to come over to the house in the middle of the night. It’s also very ironic that of all our absentee family members, the one who was here when we needed help the most is the one who (until recently) has been the most far away (in Africa).

(As I hold my newborn baby girl, I can’t help but think of and pray for my friend Becky, whose baby Emily is now seven weeks old, and Becky still hasn’t been able to hold her. Update: Becky was finally able to cuddle her baby on December 27.)